Israeli filmmakers call on Locarno Festival to drop ‘complicit’ Israeli film

Israeli filmmakers and artists including Oscar-nominated director Guy Davidi and Turner Prize co-winner Tai Shani have urged Locarno International Film Festival to cancel its Thursday screening of an Israeli film due to concerns over its funding. 

My Neighbor Adolf was funded by the Rabinovich Foundation’s Israel Cinema Project, Israel’s largest film fund. Last week, Artists for Palestine UK revealed that the foundation contractually obligates filmmakers to undertake “that there is not and will not be in the film any presentation, statement or message that calls for … denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state [or] marking Independence Day or the day of the establishment of the state as a day of mourning”.

The group of Israeli filmmakers and artists cited leading human rights organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem who have all reported that Israel, far from being a “democracy”, is an apartheid regime.

The filmmakers and artists added: “this regime of oppression was founded through the violent displacement and dispossession of most of the Indigenous Palestinian population. That the Israeli state, its complicit institutions and influential lobby groups would want us as Jewish Israelis to remain silent on this systematic ethnic cleansing is not surprising. But storytellers accepting such censorial and unethical conditions for their film projects is an undeniable form of complicity in covering up this ongoing Nakba that Palestinians face.”

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, called on “all film institutions, including international festivals, cinemas and distributors, to boycott films funded from 2022 onwards by the Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts’s Israel Cinema Project.”

Pointing to the foundation’s contractual conditions, PACBI said that “by dictating that any Israeli film producer seeking funding … must not portray on screen Israel’s perpetration of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, the Rabinovich Foundation is conditioning its funding on shielding Israel from international scrutiny and accountability.”

Both PACBI and the Israeli filmmakers emphasised that the content of any film funded by the Rabinovich Foundation is “not relevant” to whether or not it should be boycotted. Rather, according to PACBI, if there are “political strings” attached to a film’s funding, then “the film in question becomes clearly complicit in art-washing Israel’s colonial and apartheid system, contributing to its attempts to obscure or sanitize this reality.”

Israeli documentary filmmaker and film scholar Eyal Sivan added, “any film institution which screens such a film would be in breach of its artistic obligations. It is a cinema of misrepresentation which should have no place in any film festival.”

Read the letter in full below.

We, Jewish Israeli artists and filmmakers, call on Locarno Film Festival to cancel its planned August 4th screening of My Neighbor Adolf. The film was partly funded by the Rabinovich Foundation’s Israel Cinema Project, which attaches racist and explicitly political strings to its funding. The foundation contractually obliges filmmakers to undertake “that there is not and will not be in the film any presentation, statement or message that calls for … denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state [or] marking Independence Day or the day of the establishment of the state as a day of mourning”.

Israel is an apartheid state, as Palestinians, South Africans and legal scholars have long argued, and as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have in the last few years confirmed in detailed reports. Far from being a democracy, Israel is “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” as the leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem puts it.

This regime of oppression was founded through the violent displacement and dispossession of most of the Indigenous Palestinian population. That the Israeli state, its complicit institutions and influential lobby groups would want us as Jewish Israelis to remain silent on this systematic ethnic cleansing is not surprising. But storytellers accepting such censorial and unethical conditions for their film projects is an undeniable form of complicity in covering up this ongoing Nakba that Palestinians face.

The largest Palestinian civil society coalition that is leading the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has called on international film festivals to refuse to screen Rabinovich-funded films for this reason. As stated in BDS guidelines set by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and agreed by Palestinian society, the content of any cultural product including films is not relevant to whether it is boycottable. In the case of My Neighbor Adolf, it is the political conditions attached to the funding of the film that is the issue.

We refuse to be silent while the Israeli regime of apartheid, occupation and settler-colonialism oppresses Palestinians and while its public institutions such as the Rabinovich Foundation engenders racism and complicity among filmmakers. We echo the Palestinian call for the boycott of Rabinovich-funded films, and we call on Locarno Film Festival to cancel its complicit screening.

Signed:
Haim Bresheeth-Zabner (filmmaker, scholar), Guy Davidi (filmmaker), Dror Dayan (documentary filmmaker), Avi Hershkovitz (filmmaker), Ohal Grietzer (composer), Liad Hussein Kantorowicz (artist, musician), Yosefa Loshitzky (author, film scholar), Jonathan Ofir (conductor, violinist), Michal Sapir (musician, writer), Eyal Sivan (filmmaker), Tai Shani (artist)

Israel’s largest public film fund attaches political strings to its funding

The Rabinovich Foundation obligates filmmakers to whitewash apartheid and ethnic cleansing

Since launching in 2015, Artists for Palestine UK has advocated for artists and arts organisations to refuse professional engagements with Israel’s complicit cultural sector. We have helped publicise much information in support of arts professionals taking these stands.

We have now obtained a full copy of the standard contract of the Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts’ Israel Cinema Project that filmmakers must sign before receiving funding. Rabinovich’s Cinema Project is Israel’s largest film fund.

We are publishing an excerpt of the contract, which shows that the fund insists that filmmakers pledge not to acknowledge Israel’s apartheid or ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. 

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Protect the Right to Boycott

In another attempt to stifle effective protest, the government will be bringing to Parliament new anti-boycott legislation in the coming months. With new laws put in place, it will become illegal for public bodies to use divestment and procurement bans against oppressive and corrupt regimes, or companies whose actions are destroying the planet.

As artists and cultural workers, and as citizens, we strongly affirm our collective commitment to boycott Israeli apartheid until Palestine is free, regardless of government legislation. This antidemocratic bill risks blocking campaigners from seeking accountability when institutions and corporations are involved in violations of international law. Artists for Palestine UK is proud to be one of more than 40 organisations which have come together in the Right to Boycott Campaign to oppose the government’s measures. Below is our Campaign’s founding statement. Please share it widely. 

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Artists’ Solidarity: against censorship, against dismissal, for Palestine.

Defend Alistair Hudson, Defend the Whitworth Gallery.

More than half of the artists participating in British Art Show 9 in Manchester have withdrawn in support of ‘political freedom and artistic expression in cultural institutions and universities across the UK’. Their letter is reproduced in full, below.

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Emma Watson support for Palestine: Israel advocates increasingly desperate as public figures speak out

Artists for Palestine UK statement

We welcome Emma Watson’s statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. It is another sign of a groundswell of change. Over the last twelve months there has been a decisive shift in global opinion. The facts of Israel’s system of apartheid have been recognised by Human Rights Watch and the leading Israeli human rights organisation, B’tselem.  Israel’s attacks on Palestinians last May were met with worldwide outrage. Farewells to Desmond Tutu, who defended Palestinian rights so passionately, have reminded us of the threads that connect the Palestinian experience to struggles for liberation everywhere.

It is a sign of the Israeli government’s increasing desperation that a simple expression of support for Palestinian rights should provoke immediate and baseless smear tactics from Israel’s former and current Ambassadors to the UN, Danny Danon and Gilad Erdan.

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Dear Black Eyed Peas: Where’s the Love for Palestinians?

Dear Black Eyed Peas,

We are a network of artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers and cultural producers who support Palestinian human rights. We are shocked to hear that you are scheduled to perform in occupied Jerusalem on November 29th.

In the city where you are scheduled to play, indigenous Palestinians are subject to constant state violence. The forced expulsion of Palestinian Jerusalemites from their homes is a war crime. In May this year, the Israeli army’s unprovoked incursion into the Al-Aqsa mosque injured over 300 Palestinian worshippers. Together these crimes ignited protests all over Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, only to be swiftly followed by Israeli F16s bombing the Gaza Strip – killing 260 Palestinians, 129 of them civilians including 66 children and 40 women. 

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Leading writers support Sally Rooney decision to refuse publication in Israel

Photo: David Levenson

Seventy prominent writers, poets and playwrights from several continents, have signed a letter endorsing Sally Rooney’s decision to turn down an offer with an Israel publishing house, describing it as

“an exemplary response to the mounting injustices inflicted on Palestinians”. 

Among the signatories are award-winning Irish authors Niamh Campbell and Kevin Barry; Rachel Kushner, Eileen Myles and Eliot Weinburger from the US; Monica Ali, Caryl Churchill, China Miéville and Kamila Shamsie from the UK. 

The writers say that in May this year Rooney was one of more than 16,000 artists who

“… condemned Israel’s crimes in ‘A Letter Against Apartheid’. Israeli apartheid, they said, is ‘sustained by international complicity; it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’. ”

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Susan Sarandon, Claire Foy, Mark Ruffalo, Eric Cantona call for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Palestinian human rights groups

More than 100 public figures urge the international community to protect Palestinian human rights defenders.

Musicians Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Jarvis Cocker and Massive Attack, film directors Laura Poitras, Jim Jarmusch, Costa Gravas and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, actors Mark Rylance, Tilda Swinton, Simon Pegg, Richard Gere, authors Philip Pullman, Naomi Klein, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín and Monica Ali — are among dozens of high profile figures who have signed a statement [1] criticising the Israeli government for launching what they say is:

“An unprecedented and blanket attack on Palestinian human rights defenders beginning with the designation […] of six leading Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist” groups.” 

The statement goes on to warn that the Israeli military order that outlaws six “most eminent” Palestinian organizations in the occupied West Bank:

“…puts at risk not just the organizations themselves, but the entire Palestinian civil society and the tens of thousands of Palestinians they serve everyday.”

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Thousands of artists call for an end to complicity with Israeli apartheid

It is as if a dam has burst. The last few days have seen an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity with Palestinians from artists and cultural organisations around the world.  Half a century ago, there was massive support for a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. Now, artists and cultural workers are mobilising on a similar scale against Israel’s system of apartheid, calling variously for boycotts, practical acts of solidarity with Palestinians and, in particular, an end to co-operation with cultural organisations that are complicit with apartheid.

On May 23rd, ‘Against Apartheid’, a letter signed by many leading Palestinian authors and artists, was endorsed by more than 16,000 international artists, writers and actors including Sally Rooney, Deborah Levy, Cornelia Parker, Alejandro Iñárritu, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, Richard Ford, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alia Shawkat, and Tony Kushner. The letter, which referenced the 2021 report by Human Rights Watch which found Israel guilty of ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’, said:

‘We call on activists, and especially our peers in the arts, to exercise their agency within their institutions and localities to support the Palestinian struggle for decolonization to the best of their ability. Israeli apartheid is sustained by international complicity, it is our collective responsibility to redress this harm’.

May 25th saw more than 500 visual artists each posting a statement with the hashtag #VisualArtsforPalestine. The statement pledged to

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Israel Must Be Held To Account For Ongoing Violence Against Palestinians

We share with millions our anger at the indiscriminate and pitiless bombing of the Gaza Strip; at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah; at the armed invasion of the Al-Aqsa compound during the holy month of Ramadan; at the brutal attacks on peaceful protests in the Occupied West Bank, and on Palestinian citizens of Israel in towns within Israel. All this must stop immediately.


The violence the Israeli authorities are meting out is the same violence that has displaced, repressed and fragmented Palestinians since the Nakba of 1948, when over 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly removed from their homes. Israel’s policy of forced displacement, and the ongoing police repression that punishes any form of protest or peaceful resistance by Palestinians, has been taking place in many forms for decades, often without it registering in our news media. Continue reading

Brian Eno: Artists must call out Germany’s anti-Palestinian witch-hunt

A 2019 parliamentary resolution has had a chilling effect on critics of Israeli policy. Now the cultural sector is speaking up.

  • This article was published in The Guardian under the title ‘Artists like me are being censored in Germany – because we support Palestinian rights’.

I am just one of many artists who have been affected by a new McCarthyism that has taken hold amid a rising climate of intolerance in Germany. Novelist Kamila Shamsie, poet Kae Tempest, musicians Young Fathers and rapper Talib Kwelli, visual artist Walid Raad and the philosopher Achille Mbembe are among the artists, academics, curators and others who have been caught up in a system of political interrogation, blacklisting and exclusion that is now widespread in Germany thanks to the passing of a 2019 parliamentary resolution. Ultimately this is about targeting critics of Israeli policy towards Palestinians.

Recently, an exhibition of my artwork was cancelled in its early stages because I support the nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The cancellation was never publicly declared, but I understand it to have been the consequence of cultural workers in Germany fearing that they and their institution would be punished for promoting someone labelled as “antisemitic”. This is the work of tyranny: create a situation where people are frightened enough to keep their mouths shut, and self-censorship will do the rest.Advertisement

But as my own story is relatively minor, I’d like to tell you about my friend, musician Nirit Sommerfeld.

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Palestinian artists & cultural organisations call on internationals to cancel engagements in Israel

Palestinian artists and cultural organisations in Gaza and beyond have written an appeal for solidarity from all those who work in the arts internationally. We are proud to publish their letter below.

We members of the Palestinian cultural and artistic community in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, across historic Palestine and in exile make this heartfelt appeal to our fellow artists from around the world to cancel all scheduled performances, exhibitions and appearances in Israel, or sponsored by the Israeli government or complicit Israeli institutions, whether in-person or online, for as long as Israel’s regime of military occupation and apartheid persists. 

In the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s war crimes and violations of international law are proceeding with unprecedented impunity. Even in fighting the pandemic, Israel is revealing its appalling racism, a fact that should trouble people of conscience everywhere.

Israel has dumped Palestinian laborers suspected of having coronavirus at military checkpoints “with no regard for their health or safety,” as video footage shows. It has destroyed a makeshift Palestinian clinic that was planned to care for coronavirus victims in the occupied Jordan Valley. It has also denied COVID-19 testing to entire communities of Indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel, and irrefutably discriminated in making updated and accurate coronavirus information available in Arabic to the Palestinian community in a timely manner. 

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Leading artists condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian cultural centres & call for sanctions

Photo: Edward Said National Conservatory of Music by Ahdaf Soueif for PalFest

  • Massive Attack, Steve Coogan, Peter Gabriel, Maxine Peake, Philip Pullman and Benjamin Zephaniah are among 60+ cultural figures to put their names to an open letter condemning attacks on key Palestinian cultural centres.
  • The letter says the attacks are ‘part of a well-documented campaign of harassment and intimidation, arrests, home demolitions and forced evictions’ by the Israeli government. 
  • Brian Eno: ‘These raids … seem designed to break the morale of the Palestinian people, to deny them the last thing that they actually own: their culture ’
  • The artists call for ‘targeted and lawful sanctions’ against Israel.

Signatories to the letter include:

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Calling for boycott, divestment, sanctions is a human right, rules European Court

Governments and political parties across Europe have sought to criminalise the non-violent movement for BDS. Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights stopped that insidious tendency in its tracks. 

In September 2009, nine months after Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ attack on Gaza, 11 campaigners in Northern France were charged with ‘incitement to discrimination’ for handing out Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) leaflets at a hypermarket. They were given suspended fines of €1,000 and required to pay €7,000 in damages. In 2015, the French Court of Cassation upheld their conviction. 

Yesterday, 11th June, the ECHR overturned the French judgment, ruling that the convictions for campaigning for a boycott of Israeli products violated the campaigners’ right to freedom of expression. Their call to boycott Israeli products, said the court, did not amount to discrimination: it was protected by the right to free speech. 

The ECHR’s ruling, says Marco Perolini of Amnesty International, ‘should send a clear message to all European states that they must stop the prosecution of peaceful activists’ and stop trying to ‘target activists campaigning against human rights violations perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians’. 

Artists for Palestine UK welcomes this judgement. As Israel prepares to dispossess Palestinians of an even greater part of their land, we know that it is more important than ever that artists’ voices are heard. We will continue to campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel, exercising our right of free speech against those who try to bully and silence all opposition. 

Speak out to stop annexation now

Mercury award-winning band Wolf Alice, Peter Gabriel, authors Philip Pullman, Irvine Welsh, Colm Tóibín, and Selma Dabbagh, actors Harriet Walter and Julie Christie are among cultural figures joining many MPs, trade unions and human rights organisations to call on the UK government and political parties to: “support the call of Palestinian civil society organisations for effective measures by all States to stop Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied West Bank”.

Artists for Palestine UK is proud to partner on the launch of this vital call to action, the text of which is reproduced below. The campaign launches with this letter in the Guardian.

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Artswatch Palestine: September – December 2019

Our digest of news from Israel’s cultural war against the Palestinians 

Cádiz – and London

On December 20th the press office of the City of Cádiz announced that the Cádiz Court (Juzgado de Instrucción número 1 de Cádiz) had dismissed a case brought by the pro-Israeli organisation, ACOM against the Council’s decision to cancel a festival of Israeli films, organized in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in Madrid and set to take place in a municipal building.

The court’s decision overturns an earlier ruling. In making it, Judge Maria del Carmen Fornell found that ‘the suppression of the Israeli film cycle does not rest on antisemitic motives or exclusion on the grounds of nationality, nor does it demonstrate contempt for elementary norms of coexistence or dignity of the person.’

Responding to the decision, the Mayor of Cádiz, José María González, said that the cancellation of the film festival was ‘not an act of hate, but an act of love and respect for Human Rights, framed in defence of the freedom of the Palestinian people, in the rejection of the illegal Israeli occupation and apartheid.’

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Aurora: Don’t be a sword, cancel Tel Aviv

Aurora says she is a lily, not a sword. As Palestinian and Israeli musicians, we urge her to be true to her word, by refusing to let her music and image be exploited as a weapon of propaganda by the far-right Israeli apartheid regime. Israel explicitly uses all international artists to cover up oppression, particularly those who consciously dismiss moral appeals for them to refuse shows at complicit Israeli cultural institutions.

Barby Club in Tel Aviv, where Aurora is booked to perform two shows in November, is one such cultural institution. Barby brazenly wears its complicity like a badge of honour, most clearly when it handed out free t-shirts to Israeli occupation  forces engaged in the 2014 massacres in Gaza that left more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children, dead.

These t-shirts were emblazoned with the phrase “fuck you, we’re from Israel” alongside the club’s own logo, who proudly posted images online. This incident alone should be enough to stir the conscience of any progressive artist, especially Aurora’s, whose own sense of morality is surely troubled by such a glaring example of a hyper-militarised society meshing seamlessly with culture, as it does in apartheid Tel Aviv today.

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Aldeburgh DocFest disinvites author, invites Israel lobby CEO to discuss ‘GAZA’

On Sunday, Aldeburgh Documentary Festival will host a discussion that follows a screening of the acclaimed documentary ‘GAZA’, a film about Palestinian lives in the besieged enclave. Extraordinarily, the panel is advertised to include the CEO of the UK’s biggest pro-Israel public relations group, BICOM (British Israel Communications and Research). 

Clearly something has gone very awry with programming principles at Aldeburgh DocFest.  

Below, journalist and author Sarah Helm who has been reporting from Gaza during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests, describes how she was invited, and then disinvited, from the GAZA panel at Aldeburgh DocFest. Her statement gives an indication of the confused and troubling logic at work behind the scenes. 

It can never be appropriate or ethical for an independent cultural organisation to provide a platform for a PR company for Israel that is overtly complicit with the oppression of Palestinian people.  Filmmakers and audiences deserve better.

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Open letter: the demand that artists disavow BDS is not a legitimate request

A museum in Aachen, Germany, has defied the city’s Mayor, who had said that respected artist Walid Raad should not be awarded the €10, 000 Aachen Art Prize, because, following the city’s inquiry, the artist had apparently “not distanced himself” from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. The Association of Friends of the Ludwig Forum for International Art must now find an alternative venue for the award ceremony due the Mayor’s intervention and effective ban.

Today, a group of artists, academics, Jewish and Palestinian human rights defenders have addressed an open letter to Marcel Philipp, Mayor of Aachen. Artists for Palestine UK is happy to reproduce the letter below, in English.

*To add your name contact: palestinianpanthers@riseup.net
*Deutscher Text folgt dem Englischen

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Palestinian and Israeli Artists Urge Aurora: Don’t Play Israel!

Norwegian pop star Aurora is booked to play Tel Aviv on November 14th and 15th. Palestinian artists, and Israeli artists, have each launched appeals to the singer. 

Artists for Palestine UK is pleased to host both letters below.

Palestinian artists to Aurora

Dear Aurora 

It is with great regret we have become aware of your planned performance in Tel Aviv in November. You have quickly become one of the great new names in the international popular music scene, including among Palestinians and other Arabs. Regardless of your intentions, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv will be seen as endorsing Israel’s whitewash of its occupation and denial of human rights to Palestinians. 

Israel is intensifying its decades-old regime of oppression against Palestinians, especially its theft of Palestinian land and resources to build more illegal settlements and apartheid walls. UN investigators have concluded that Israeli occupation forces’ intentional targeting of journalists, medics, children and disabled people with sniper fire in Gaza “may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Israel’s 12-year-old siege of Gaza has reduced it into an “unliveable” territory, according to the UN. Israel’s military occupation counts per-capita calories allowed into Gaza to keep the two million Palestinians there on the verge of starvation.

Given this reality, many celebrities, including Lana del Rey, Lorde and Natalie Portman, have cancelled scheduled events or performances  in Israel. As during the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, such expressions of solidarity by artists sends the right message that they will not lend their names to covering up Israel’s oppression and that they stand with the oppressed Palestinians, including artists, who are not allowed to travel freely to share our art and culture.   Continue reading